10. WD 2TB My Cloud Personal Network Attached Storage – More and more content is being created in digital formats everyday. From videos you shoot and/or edit on your phone to content being shared by friends and family, I believe networked cloud storage is a must for any home streaming set up. Put everything on here, and access it from various points throughout your house, or on the go through the mobile apps. Until everything moves to the same shared cloud, you might as well have your own to enjoy. And prices have come down so much.
9. ARRIS SURFboard SB6121 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem – It’s time to get your own modem and stop leasing from the Internet providers. Leasing equipment is a big business for them, and they don’t want you to buy your own, which is exactly why you should. I used this one for my Comcast service, and it instantly increased my speeds, as well as reduced monthly cost. If you haven’t upgraded in a while, you may not be taking advantage of all the speed that you are paying for every month.
8. ASUS RT-AC66U Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router – It’s not cheap at $140 but your router is the lifeblood of your entire home streaming system. If you’re like me, then you probably have multiple phones, tablets, Rokus and other devices constantly sucking data through your router. If you upgrade your modem, you might need to upgrade your router to really get blazing. According to CNET tests, which I generally trust, this is the one to have this year.
7. AmazonBasics Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna – I’m putting an HD antenna on here because if you don’t have one, you really need to give it a shot, especially if you live within 30-50 miles of a major city. The quality is amazing and the technology has vastly improved over the last two years. I think this one from Amazon is one of the best buys. It’s as thin as a piece of paper. Simple to hook up and easy to hide from view. Certainly worth trying for only $20.
6. Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick – these are both good contenders and are about the same price (~$40) if you’re looking for a super easy and fast way to get more content on your TV. They are simply wireless doggles that plug directly into the HDMI ports on your TV, and then a world of content is opened up to you.
5. Tablo DVR for HDTV Antennas, 4-Tuner with Wi-Fi – if you purchased item #7 above, or already have an HD antenna that works well in your home, then you might want to consider the Tablo DVR for recording over the air content to watch at a later time. It’s Tivo for OTA. The box isn’t cheap, but if this fulfills a need you have for recording content and allows you to cut the cord, then it is more than worth the price.
4. Amazon Prime – For anyone out there who hasn’t signed up for Amazon Prime, you simply need to do it, and the holidays couldn’t present a better time. If the 2-day shipping, Prime streaming music (Pandora basically without ads), free Kindle books and other special offers from Amazon including early access to special sales events, doesn’t motivate you, then perhaps all the streaming TV and Movies will throw you over the edge. And there’s a key here too that I really love. On the iPad app for Prime TV, you can download movies and TV to the device to watch offline, such as when you are on an airplane or on a road trip with kids. I love that feature and use it constantly.
3. HBO Now – Premium content that was once reserved for high dollar cable paying customers can now be had by anyone with an Internet connection, for only $15 a month. And the content is just, better than anything on cable. You can also do Showtime for $11/month. I can’t believe it took so long to unlock this from the cable companies, but I’m thrilled they finally did.
2. The new Apple TV – I don’t have one of these yet, but I am very interested. This is a major leap forward for Apple in the entertainment space. The gaming options sound great. I like the AirPlay capability along with all the regular streaming options. I am curious how the new voice control remote works, but if it’s anything like Amazon’s Fire TV or better, I’m game. The only complaint here is the lack of support for 4K since some of the other competing boxes have it. But all in all, I think Apple is blazing a new path forward with this one. If you’re already in the Apple eco-system, this might be something you need to buy this holiday season.
1. PlayStation 4 500GB Limited Edition Star Wars Battlefront Console – I still am in love with my Playstation 3 and the only thing holding me back from switching is all the saved media and personalized set up I have on my old machine. But the time will come, and with some of the new games arriving for Playstation 4, including the new Star Wars Battlefront, the time for an upgrade may be nearing. I think the Limited Edition Star Wars Battlefront Bundle is the ultimate holiday gift for a cool $400. If you buy an XBOX that also counts a killer gift. I can go both ways, but this Star Wars pack is, I believe, the overall gift of the year.